President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday welcomed some 60 injured veterans from the United Kingdom and their Israeli counterparts who have taken part in the first Veterans’ Games. The participants took part in various sporting competitions as well as hearing from leading experts on physical and mental healing. Dr Andrew Murrison MP, British Minister for the Middle East, who is visiting Israel for the first time, also spoke at the event.
The Veterans’ Games are a new international event during which 100 injured veterans from Israel and the United Kingdom compete in a number of sporting events and meet with international experts on post-trauma and rehabilitation. The event is hosted by Zahal Disabled Veterans’ Organization at Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As part of their involvement in the project, Chelsea Football Club sent a team of coaches who worked with the veterans’ children from both countries and gave workshops to Israeli sports teachers.
“My dear friends, looking around this room, I see true heroes who answered their country’s call and went to war to preserve our values and protect us all. I salute you ! ” the president said to the veterans. “I am proud to see our own IDF soldiers here today who also bear the scars of battle and who took part in the games. You returned from battle but there were those - your comrades, your friends - who did not. Let us pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The president also thanked the Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, for his presence and support, saying “Israel and Britain are true allies. Our rich shared past and common values help us look forward and work together to face new challenges and opportunities. We face the same enemies: global terrorism and those seek to undermine global security, and we share the same values: democracy, freedom and tolerance, that will help build a better world.”
Minister of State for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison MP: “I am inspired by these games that bring together Israeli and British servicemen and servicewomen. I know, Mr President, that you feel very strongly that national and international relationships are to do with people to people contact. The mark of a decent society is the way it treats its veterans. That is the essence of the military covenant – the agreement between the state and the military that we will do the best by you, those who have given the most to the state.”
Representative of the veterans, Warrant Officer Matt Tomlinson MC, Royal Marines: “Mr President, it gives me great pleasure and a huge sense of honor to thank you personally on behalf of the brave warriors of Her Majesty’s armed forces and their families. The Veterans’ Games are a rare opportunity to visit your wonderful country and at the same time challenge, compete and find common ground with Israeli veterans. We are the lucky few, and we are overwhelmed. Not only lucky to have fought and survived countless conflicts, in foreign fields and closer to home, not only lucky to have survived life-changing injuries, both physical and mental, not only lucky to have overcome adversity when facing life-changing injuries through injuries and tragic accidents but also lucky enough to represent our tri-service cap badges along with our much cherished and so important families. During the competition, we shared sweat, pain and more pain, neither side giving up but both sides encouraging and supporting the other. Thank you for allowing us to come to your country, to compete and to share common ground with your veterans. We will never forget this truly amazing experience. Thank you, Mr President, and thank you Israel.”